The Magic of Film Photography

I love all types of photography.

I enjoy viewing the work of other photographers on blogs, Instagram, Facebook, books, and magazines. I will scroll through hundreds of friends snapshots on social media. But there is something different about holding an actual, printed photograph in your hand. It is tangible, which feels more personal. As someone who craves nostalgia, it makes me happy.

One of my favorite pastimes is looking at old photos. And I don’t mean just my own family photos. I am that person in the antique shop looking through stacks of old black and white photos of people I will never know. I have a dear friend in her 70’s who loves to show me her old photos of family and friends every time I am at her house, photos dating back many years. I love it.

When I first started getting serious about photography, I did what anyone would do in 2014…I logged onto Amazon and looked for deals on a good DSLR. I bought a Nikon D3200, and once it arrived, I got busy shooting. I really enjoyed the ease of shooting with a digital camera. Digital cameras do most of the work for you, especially if you aren’t comfortable going full manual yet (I am getting there).

My photos with my DSLR usually turn out great, even though I consider myself an amateur. I enjoy using it to take pictures of my nieces and nephews, and my cats…all who move to much for me to use any camera where I can’t adjust shutter speed. I’ve printed many of my digital photos. They look wonderful framed. But they lack that sentimental, warm fuzzy feel that old film pictures have. Editing them with a trendy filter doesn’t cut it for me. I love my DSLR, but I wanted to try something new. I wanted to try a film camera.

When I mentioned to my husband my interest in trying film photography, he dug his 1979 Vivitar XV-2 SLR out of a closet. img_20161024_234155It hadn’t been used since the 90’s. I was skeptical about it working, but I really wanted it to. We found the necessary lithium battery for the camera and got AA’S for the flash. We found roll film at Wal-Mart. I loaded it up and crossed my fingers. Voila! Worked like a charm. I was so excited to start shooting!

After dropping off my first 3 rolls to be developed at Walgreens, I waited for what felt like forever (1 week, GASP!) for my pictures to come back. You get used to instant gratification in this digital world, so waiting is difficult (but patience is a virtue :). What you also forget when you’ve done digital for so long is that developing and printing film photos costs money. Today, it costs 15$ a roll to develop and print. OUCH! And the quality is…MEH. I have since found an old local shop that develops and prints in house, for a bit cheaper, and the quality is that of a pure, film photograph directly from the camera. No computers involved.

Knowing about my new passion for photography with vintage cameras, my sweet friend in her 70’s, Karen, and her husband, Toney, generously gave me a 1966 Minolta SRT101 SLR to add to my growing collection of vintage cameras. We got it working, and it works beautifully!  It takes wonderful pictures with that nostalgic classic grain and slightly muted color that you see in old photos from the 60’s to the 80’s. No Instagram filter needed!img_20161213_225656

One thing I have learned with using these vintage cameras is that your technique matters much more, because unlike a digital camera, it does not automatically do things for you. It doesn’t color correct. You can’t adjust shutter speed for fast moving subjects, and you can’t change the ISO settings for a darker environment. The type of film matters. If you have 200 speed film and try to take pictures of hyper nephews at night inside with no natural light, you will have blurry subjects and a bright yellowish tint to all of the photos (not that I know ANYTHING about this ;). And if you don’t have a steady hand, you definitely need a tripod. I am still learning, but I have managed to get some decent pictures despite my inexperience using these old cameras.

Within the next year, I will have a darkroom in my basement. It is then that I will get to witness the real magic of film photography. There is something about watching a photo slowly appear on paper that is meditative and soothing. And it gives you a sense that you have really created something, because you were more involved in the process. Interesting how a technique that is more than a century old can fascinate me more that anything that a computer can do.

Thanks for reading and happy shooting!

Here are some shots with the Vivitar and Minolta cameras. Keep in mind that these are my first pictures with these kind of cameras, so my work will improve as I learn better techniques.

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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar   I used a telephoto lens. The result was……interesting.
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’79 Vivitar
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’66 Minolta
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’66 Minolta
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’66 Minolta
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’66 Minolta
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’66 Minolta   Note the yellow tint. This is what happens when you shoot indoors in a kitchen with yellow walls at night.
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’66 Minolta   Alas, would be a wonderful shot w/o the blur.
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’66 Minolta
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’66 Minolta
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